What Are Biosolids?
Biosolids are a safe and beneficial
resource composed of essential plant nutrient and organic matter that is
recovered from the treatment of domestic sewage in a wastewater treatment
facility. Biosolids can be reused and applied as fertilizer to improve and
maintain productive soils and to stimulate plant growth. In fact, farmers and
gardeners have been reusing biosolids for ages, and they are also used to
fertilize gardens and parks, reclaim mining and forestry sites or even generate
electricity when used as fuel. Biosolids are carefully monitored and must be
used in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Why Is Reuse Important?
Given the strains of population
growth and higher costs, finding ways to reuse or recycle limited resources is
critical to a sustainable environment. Communities across North America and
around the world conserve natural resources by recycling everything from glass
and plastics to paper and metal, and their wastewater facilities reclaim safe,
nutrient-rich organic material from the millions of liters of wastewater they
treat each year. This reclamation process, which cleans the water and protects
public health, results in the production of biosolids.
Are There Standards For Quality?
In the United States, all biosolids reuse programs must meet strict quality
criteria and regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Standards were based on EPA’s rigorous review of decades of long-term
scientific studies regarding the safety and effectiveness of biosolids reuse.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
also encourage the beneficial use of biosolids.
Pretreatment regulations also
require that industrial plants treat or remove any contaminants from their
wastewater in accordance to these requirements before it is discharged to
municipal wastewater plants, where regular testing ensures high quality
biosolids. And specifically mandated treatments minimize any potential odor
associated with biosolids.
What Are Results of Biosolids Reuse?
- Higher Yields:
In farming, biosolids ruse has been shown to produce significant
improvement in crop growth and yield.
- Lower Costs:
Biosolids reuse can be a cost-efficient complement to chemical fertilizers
that contain inorganic chemicals with biosolids.
- Greater Savings:
Increased biosolids reuse enables local governments to market biosolids
products and helps to offset the costs of ensuring clean water quality to
- A Cleaner Environment: Biosolids reuse programs can save landfill
space, transform community waste into valuable resources, and support a
cleaner, more sustainable environment.
For more information, visit the National
Biosolids Partnership, a not-for-profit alliance formed in 1997 with
the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (formerly Association of
Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies), Water Environment Federation, and U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.